It’s time for the Obligatory Year End Post!
My reading level has gone down this year because of the job I’m working and my time management is still lacking so I never get to write as much as I should. But I have read some awesomesauce books this year and this time of year is a good excuse to talk about said awesome things.
Favorite Book of 2015
I straight up cannot pick just one. I keep a whole Shelf of Honor for my favorite books in general because I can’t narrow it down too much. While the overall number of books I read this year is not as high as some years, almost every book I read was an excellent experience. However, two books stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson)
Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
Both of these authors are part of the Writing Role Model Voltron (along with Cole, Sykes, Wendig and McGuire) and I will put anything they write on my To Buy List sight unseen.
Let’s talk about Wake first. First of all, I love genre mashups. Weird West, a marriage of Lovecraft or urban fantasy with a Wild West setting, is a small blip in the grand SF genre map and that makes it fresh and new to me. I’ve read it a few times and actively seek it out now because I’ve enjoyed it each time. Dawson sets Wake in an alternate Texas where monsters are real, but not everyone realizes it. Dawson writes about the setting and the world and you can tell she is excited to be writing the book. Nettie Lonesome is one of the most badass characters that I have read in a long time. The book is marketed as YA because Nettie is a teenager, but seriously, people need to stop letting the term YA scare them. Nettie’s external journey through the wilds of Durango provide a road map for her to discover who she is and wants to be as a person. There’s nothing scary about that at all and Dawson writes Nettie with a deft touch. I recommend this book to anyone and the end of this book is one of the most perfect ending pages I have ever read. I eagerly await the chance to throw money at the sequel.
Now let’s talk about Empire Ascendant. First off, this a Book Two. A Book Two is difficult and the more I write myself, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to write a Book Two. Book One in a trilogy tends to be stand alone-ish to rope in the readers and also from a practical point, often books two and three aren’t under contract until a publisher can see if the first did well. That means book two is in a thorny position of having to raise the stakes from the first book, but cannot really wrap up everything in a nice little bow. Kameron Hurley’s Empire Ascendant provides a platonic ideal of how to do the middle of a trilogy correctly. It’s right up there with Empire Strikes Back in “how to do this right”-ness. She puts her character’s through a friggin’ meat grinder. You have zero well being as a character in a Kameron Hurley book. I have no idea what kind of narrative wizardry she is going to pull in book three because the end of two leaves no easy answers. That is a fantastic thing because it makes sure each book has its own distinct identity. Hurley busts her ass to put out the best writing in the genre and levels up with each book she writes. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not reading her Worldbreaker Saga.
Favorite Short Story of 2015
I don’t read nearly as much short fiction as I should and I am trying to fix that. Short fiction is a great place to find SF that is pushing the boundaries of the genre so I think everyone should at least dabble in the form, both reading and writing.
My favorite short story of the year is… Kameron Hurley again for “The Light Brigade.” I read it as part of Hurley’s Patreon service, but the story was also reprinted in Lightspeed. In between writing three novels this year, Hurley is putting out some more of that envelope pushing short fiction via Patreon. The Lightspeed link is right above, so instead of listening to me yammer on about it, just give it a click and enjoy the story for yourself.
Related, I enjoy the Patreon service in general as a way to directly support rad people.
Favorite Short Story Collection of 2015
Xenowealth: A Collection by Tobias S Buckell
As part of my ongoing quest to read more short stories, I got in on Buckell’s kickstarter to create this collection of short stories set in the same world as the series that began with Crystal Rain. The stories are all collected in one place for the first time and includes two new stories published for the first time. Pepper is one of my favorite characters in sci fi so I knew I would enjoy this collection. The kickstarter is long over, but the book is available to preorder now if you want in on it.
Favorite Comic Books of 2015
I read comic books like some people watch Netflix, binge it online six months after everyone else watched it new. The two best things that I have found in Marvel’s giant digital library are…
Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl
Kamala Khan and Doreen Green are the most fun super heroines out there right now. Everything about their comics is a total delight it is only a matter of time before I give in and start buying them all in dead tree format because I can’t wait until they show up on Marvel Unlimited. G. Willow Wilson writing Ms. Marvel in particular is what drew me into giving comics a shot again after years of mostly ignoring the genre. The writing she puts into Kamala Khan has more nuance and care than half the novels I’ve read this year. Amid all the shenanigans of the Hugos this year, Ms. Marvel took one home and I was more stoked about that award than any other award in the genre this year. Even if you’re a comic newb or lowbie, you should be reading both of these titles.